In Events, Events and UpdatesAugust 15, 20238 Minutes

India Startup Festival 2023

A remarkable convergence of innovation and collaboration

Innovation at the Bottom of the Pyramid

The second edition of the India Startup Festival (ISF) was held between August 10 and 12, 2023, in the serene environs of Sathya Sai Grama, Muddenahalli, Karnataka. The Festival exuded a remarkable convergence of innovation and collaboration. This esteemed location, renowned as an ashram and school campus, stands as a testament to tranquillity and spiritual wisdom under the guidance of Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai.

Orchestrated by the India Startup Foundation, the event united over 200 global investors, including esteemed VCs and angel investors, alongside CXO industry experts. During the three-day festival, a new record was set with 30 investors pledging a total of 125 term sheets, a testament to the pivotal role played by ISF in fostering collaborative success.

Themed ‘Innovation at the Bottom of the Pyramid’, this year’s ISF exhibition showcased more than 100 stalls that represented critical sectors like Fintech, Agritech, Foodtech, Rural Healthcare, Education, and Rural Innovation. By engaging change-makers policymakers and global industry leaders, the festival aimed to uncover solutions to challenges faced at the grassroot levels.

Significantly, the ISF startup pitch contest garnered a staggering 10,000+ applications, culminating in the selection of 100 finalists and the commendation of 10 standout winners. Eleven Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were signed between ISF and other leading companies and investors around the world. The ISF aimed at amplifying the startup ecosystem and establishing a fertile ground for sustainable growth. An additional highlight was the acknowledgment of 10 Junicons in a concerted effort to cultivate and inspire the upcoming wave of ingenious trailblazers.

The festival welcomed notable attendees such as Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai (Philanthropist and Humanitarian), Sri. N. S. Bosseraju (Hon’ble Minister for Science & Technology and Minor Irrigation, Government of Karnataka), Sri. J.A. Chowdary (Founder, ISF) and Mr. Bart S. Fisher (co-founder of Give Life Foundation and Nobel Prize nominee).

Day one concluded with a question-and-answer session hosted by Sirisha Voruganti, who engaged Sadguru in a thought-provoking discussion that resonated with today’s business landscape. Sadguru encouraged attendees to perceive wealth as a tool to achieve higher goals and ultimately contribute to collective prosperity. Drawing a parallel between entrepreneurs and problem solvers, He stressed that their role extends beyond personal gains and should encompass the betterment of society at large.

Karena Belin, Founder and Co-founder of WHub & Angel Hub, found a profound reconnection with the true spirit and purpose of entrepreneurship at ISF 2023. She enthusiastically extended an invitation to ISF to take part in the Hong Kong Fintech Fest 2023, scheduled to be held in November this year.

The event also celebrated seven distinguished individuals with lifetime achievement awards for their innovation and contribution to the country. The awardees included Mr. Sivakumar Surampudi (Group Head, Agri and IT Businesses, ITC Limited), Dr. D. Nageshwar Reddy (Chairman and Chief of Gastroenterology, Asian Institute of Gastroenterology and AIG Hospitals), Mr. Vineet Rai (Founder and Chairman, Aavishkaar Group), Dr. Galla Ramachandra Naidu (Founder Chairman, Amara Raja Group), Dr. P. Raja Mohan Rao (Chairman, United Telecoms Group), Dr. Kazuhiro Chiba (President, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology) and Mr. Atluri (Managing Director, Global Head of Enterprise Quality Engineering, BNY Mellon).

Numerous first-time visitors to Sathya Sai Grama were captivated by the sacred ambiance. As Tarun Ghulati (Chairman, President, CEO, Squared Watermelon) shared, “Having travelled the world, maybe to 70-80 countries, the moment you enter these gates, you realise Heaven is on this Earth here.”

What has spirituality or a spiritual ashram got to do with startups in India?

To us, spirituality is not some secluded activity to be done in solitude or silence. Spirituality is the way of life for Indians. Spirituality is an attitude with which we do everything, ordinary or extraordinary. And this attitude is that of doing selfless good for all.

– Sri Madhusudanan Sai, India Startup Festival 2023

Reflecting on the event’s impact, Mr. J.A. Chowdary remarked, “ISF 2023 has not only strengthened the ecosystem, but it has also spotlighted innovation opportunities at the base of the pyramid. The Festival’s theme will focus on the rural sector for the next five years.” He also highlighted the unconventional choice of holding the conference in Muddenahalli, a rural area, emphasising its alignment with the theme of addressing challenges faced by the grassroot sections of society. He expressed confidence in solving these issues sustainably with the blessings of Sri Madhusudan Sai. Mr. Chowdary thus underscored the need to create rural role models and extend the reach of technology to the birthplace of ISF.

Sri. N. S. Bosseraju highlighted ISF’s mission — to reshape the startup revolution and empower entrepreneurs, aligning it with the Karnataka Government’s vision to create a business, science, and technology-friendly ecosystem for a prosperous Karnataka. He also announced the upcoming establishment of the Karnataka State Research Foundation (KSRF) to enhance investments in R&D.

In his closing remarks, Sri Madhusudan Sai emphasised the principle of decision-making as outlined in the Mahabharata. He highlighted the concept that individual sacrifice can lead to the betterment of the family, community, and ultimately, of the world. He stressed the importance of decision-making being guided by the welfare of the broader community, and not just by personal interests; and how this approach should be adopted in business and society. He commended the dedication of the ISF team, volunteers, and participants, noting that true success comes from the collective efforts of selfless individuals working towards the betterment of society, particularly those at the bottom of the pyramid. Sri Madhusudan Sai expressed appreciation for Mr. J.A. Chowdary’s commitment to the vision of rural innovation and encouraged participants to continue working together to build a better world.